A few years ago, I received an email from a teacher in my kids’ school:
Hello Dr. Namnezia, I teach French and Spanish at Yourkids’ School. A colleague mentioned you to me as someone who had lived in Mexico. I will be doing a cultural unit next week on the Mexican symbol, La Virgen de Guadalupe, with our 6th grade Spanish class. We were hoping you could visit the class and talk in English or in simple Spanish to them about La Virgen and what she means to most Mexicans, and also what she meant to you and your family.
My reply was:
Thanks for asking me to talk in your class, and yes, I was born and raised in Mexico City. However, I am probably not the person you want to to talk to your class about La Virgen de Guadalupe, since I am Jewish! (yes, there are Jews in Mexico, and no, they are not all sepharadic from Spain). So “La Virgen” didn’t really mean much at all to me and to my family. Perhaps when you do a unit about how Mexican society can be just as culturally and ethnically diverse as that of the United States, I’ll be happy to visit.
I have to admit my reply was a little snippy, but I was annoyed at the assumptions this dude was making. However, I have to admit he really did have a point, albeit a small one. See, in Mexico (and in a bunch of other places) the holiday season isn’t quite over yet, there’s still one more hurrah: Día de los Reyes, or Day of the Kings, also known as Epiphany. This marks the end of what is referred to as “Corrida de Guadalupe-Reyes”, which means a bunch of parties that occur between Dec. 12, Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe and Jan. 6, Kings Day. Some take this time as a personal challenge to go to a party and get drunk every day of the corrida. That’s 26 days of drinking. Growing up in a heavily catholic country one cannot but help celebrating some of these holidays. Not really as a family, but at friends’ houses, and at school, and at friends of friends’ houses, and the neighbors, you get the idea. We didn’t really do Christmas, or celebrate the day of the Virgin of Guadalupe, but we definitely did Kings Day. Not much in the way of exchanging presents, but in eating delicious Rosca de Reyes. Rosca is a delicious round, fluffy sweet bread, covered in crusty sugary bits alternating with dried fruit. Inside somewhere is one (or many) little plastic doll representing baby jesus. Or Jesús as they say in those parts. Everybody cuts a piece, and whoever gets the doll has to throw a party with tamales sometime in February. Since we didn’t do the tamale thing, my goal was to get as many dolls as possible. I think I had collected dozens as a kid. In contrast, my grandfather told me that once he actually made himself swallow jesus to avoid throwing a tamale party. He also told me, since he was fond of talking about such things, that it took three days for him to “pass” jesus.
So, if you are depressed that the holidays are over, you’ve opened your presents, ate your fruitcake, lit your Hanukkah candles, stayed up until midnight to greet 2013, given the Christmas tree the ol’ heave-ho down the front steps, now’s your chance to keep ’em going for a few more days. Get yourself to your local Mexican bakery and order a big Rosca de Reyes. On January 6, eat it up and as a bonus you or one of your friends has to throw a tamale party in February.